By on December 1, 2021

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has said that the growing pressures being placed on automakers to shift toward electric-vehicle production are unsustainable and run the risk of the public getting subpar products at decidedly higher price tags. While we’ve seen automotive executives lambast new energy vehicles before, it’s grown rarer as governments around the world have continued incentivizing their existence and investors have been pouring money on startups delivering literally nothing more than the mere suggestion of more electrification.

Tavares’s words come from the Reuters Next conference, running counter to the event’s prevailing narrative of encouraging technological progress and social change. Attendees tend to be political officials, heads of finance, NGO leaders, and business executives sympathetic to the cause. But the Stellantis CEO definitely went off-script when he listed some of the shortcomings of electrification, adding that he felt the costs were “beyond the limits” of what was realistically feasible. It’s his belief that pursuing electrification at the current pace doesn’t take into account the larger financial picture.  (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2021

Despite the semiconductor shortage having encouraged the automotive sector to repeatedly idle factories, word on the ground is that things are becoming more stable. Companies are seeing less production downtime overall and workers are reporting more reliable working conditions across the board. However, several automakers have continued to express concerns (e.g. Volvo), alleging that chip shortages could stretch deep into 2022, while the U.S. government ponders how to advance chip production in-country and become less dependent on Asian suppliers.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been touring Michigan, meeting with union members and industry heads, and plans to urge Congress to move on a $52 billion in funding bill aimed at boosting domestic production. We’ve questioned the efficacy of the CHIPS Act before, primarily in relation to how the subsidies would be allocated. But there are new concerns that the plan will mimic the Biden administration’s EV subsidies by spending heaps of taxpayer money and giving union-backed organizations a larger cut.  (Read More…)

By on November 10, 2021

There’s an initiative to convince Congress to pass legislation that would pour billions of dollars onto chip manufacturers at play that’s being led by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A letter, signed by nine other governors, was issued asking like-minded lawmakers to send $52 billion in economic aid so that the chip shortage so that the supply issues that have been plaguing various industries (including the automotive sector) can finally be resolved.

Backed by the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the “CHIPS for America Act” is just one of several programs designed to use the National Defense Authorization Act to create federal funding for chip suppliers. The governors (all of which are from states manufacturing automobiles) say they want a cash injection by the end of 2021 so that domestic chip manufacturing can build new factories right away. But SIA lobbyists are pressing for numerous plans that would result in extensive tax breaks and annual investments from the government that is all focused around the proposed CHIPS legislation and piggybacks on the recently passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

Alright, let’s break this down.  (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2021

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

Subaru of America will be canceling Starlink telematics subscriptions on all new 2022 vehicles sold in Massachusetts thanks to the state having an amended right-to-repair law that’s wildly unpopular with global automakers. If you’ve been following our coverage, Massachusetts has become ground zero for consumer advocacy groups, independent repair shops, and car buyers that have grown concerned with the industry’s increased interest in data hoarding.

The argument is that the automakers are now building vehicles that violate customer privacy — by wirelessly transmitting information back to manufacturer data farms — while also setting them up to make independent repairs nearly impossible. This resulted in an extended legal battle where the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) went to bat to ensure the industry retained this lucrative venture. But it was stymied by the grassroots campaign launched against it. Massachusetts’ updated law currently requires all vehicles sold within the state (from the 2022 model year onward) using telematics systems to be equipped with a standardized, open-access data platform that would allow customers and unaffiliated mechanics to gain access.  (Read More…)

By on November 4, 2021

ford logo

Ford Motor Co. has announced a cash tender offer to repurchase up to $5 billion of the company’s high-yield debt in the hopes of rebalancing its budget after needing to borrow so much during the back-to-back-to-back production shutdowns incurred since the start of 2020. The automaker is retiring as much of the $8 billion in bonds the company issued at the start the coronavirus pandemic as it can and will be doing the same for some older bonds issued at similarly high rates (over 8 percent annually).

However this will be used to make room for environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives and establish a “sustainable financing framework” the automaker said would be a first for North America. Ford clearly believes social governance investments will become increasingly routine and is attempting to showcase itself as one of the kinder, more forward thinking, and environmentally responsible multinational industrial concerns. Sort of like a fully armed M1 Abrams tank painted with peace symbols and hippie daises. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2021

Nissan-owned Infiniti has opted to merge marketing, public relations, and social media oversight into a single position. Framed as a promotion for Wendy Orthman, the brand’s current global head of communications, the management shift takes place shortly after former General Manager Global Brand and Marketing Phil York decided he had better things to do in Europe. But it really just seems like the company figured out a way to roll three jobs into a single paycheck.

Effective today, Orthman will be assuming the freshly minted title of general manager of Global Integrated Brand, Marketing and Communications. According to the automaker, the position combines the roles of a chief marketing officer and head of communications while also providing oversight for Infiniti’s social media and public relations.  (Read More…)

By on November 2, 2021

Following claims that Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” beta caused some vehicles to experience erroneous forward collision warnings and the automatic emergency braking system stopping cars for no discernable reason, the manufacturer has filed a probable fix with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The recall encompasses 11,700 equipped with FSD beta software version 10.3 that was released on October 23rd. While Tesla says that the vast majority of the vehicles selected to test the new code were already fixed via over-the-air updates, 0.2 percent of the whole still had not been issued a fix as of October 29th. Affected cars include every Tesla model ever made, provided it’s from the 2017 model year or later.  (Read More…)

By on November 1, 2021

Now that fuel prices are popping off and it’s becoming glaringly obvious that we’re falling into another recession, one would hope that automakers would be prioritizing their more economical models. Unfortunately, most manufacturers operating in North America spent the last decade culling the smallest models from their lineup. Domestic brands took the practice so far that several no longer offer traditional cars, opting instead for compact crossover vehicles yielding higher price tags and broader profit margins. Foreign brands were only marginally more reserved with the ax.

This has helped move the average vehicle transaction price beyond $42,000 in the United States, according to Edmunds, with used rates sitting somewhere around $28,000. Though the cause isn’t entirely down to there being a complete lack of econoboxes on the market. Increased regulations and the industry’s newfound obsession with connectivity/tech have also increased pricing. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re now confronting a situation where almost nobody is selling the kind of small, affordable vehicles that cater to shoppers needing to be thrifty right when they really need them.  (Read More…)

By on October 27, 2021

Consumer Reports just released the findings of a year-long study looking into the latest trends in automotive loans and car payments. The resulting information highlights just how explosive the debt growth has been over the last 10 years and the arbitrary way in which borrowers are now being treated.

Long story short, we’re all being swindled.

With vehicle prices ballooning and the associated loans becoming longer than ever, dealers and lenders seem to be operating whatever way yields the steepest profit margins with only a modicum of consideration being given to the established frameworks designed to act as a guard rail. This has led to U.S. citizens carrying around a record $1.37 trillion in automotive load debt and customers with good credit being treated no different than those that fall into the subprime category. Sadly, the issue appears only appears to be worsening as new economic perils are only making things more expensive. Meanwhile, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is projecting national auto debt to swell to $1.42 trillion by year’s end.  (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2021

Tesla Inc. pulled its Full Self Driving (FSD) beta off the table over the weekend, with CEO Elon Musk stating that testers had been “seeing some issues with [version] 10.3.”

To remedy the issue, the company has reverted back to FSD 10.2 temporarily. Musk made the announcement over social media on Sunday morning. The following day, he had already promised that version 10.3.1 would be coming out to address problems encountered during the exceptionally short public testing phase.

“Please note, this is to be expected with beta software,” the CEO noted. “It is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal QA, hence public beta.” (Read More…)

By on October 18, 2021

Automakers Toyota and Stellantis separately announced plans to construct lithium-ion battery plants in North America on Monday. With regulatory pressures mounting, the industry has been shifting its eggs between baskets to avoid trouble. But the ultimate goal for most brands is to transition toward selling EVs, requiring meaningful action and financial expenditures on the part of manufacturers.

We’ve already seen General Motors and Ford Motor Co. squabbling over who will nestle the biggest battery facilities between America’s Frost and Sun Belts. It’s only fitting that the remnants of the Chrysler Corporation contained in Stellantis walk the path of electrification, especially now that it’s absolutely riddled with European influence. Meanwhile, Toyota is predictably exercising a bit of caution as it similarly navigates how to modernize itself via upcoming lithium-ion plants.  (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2021

Like the rest of the world, the automotive industry is currently living in two distinct realities. Labor unions and part suppliers have been sounding the alarm that electric vehicles will require far fewer hands to manufacture and will ultimately lead to their demise. But battery firms, establishment politicians, and most automakers have claimed that transitioning to EVs is entirely necessary and will result in there being a surge of high-paying jobs to replace those lost.

Then there are claims you can’t quite wrap your head around, like the one Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess reportedly made to the supervisory board in September. The Diess Man asserted that VW would lose 30,000 jobs if it transitioned too slowly to electrics, framing the situation around Tesla arriving in Germany and fresh competition from Chinese manufacturers. While it’s certainly possible that VW could take a hit as its rivals move on Europe, the premise that it’s going to cost the business jobs is sort of bewildering when just about every analyst agrees that electrification will result in a leaner workforce across the board.  (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2021

While nobody needs to tell you that the economy isn’t in good health, we should at least hip you to the latest automotive trends relating to the financial purgatory we’re currently living through. Ford sent a memo to dealers last week indicating that it would be removing the minimum FICO requirement for 84-month financing, indicating that the industry may soon normalize auto loans that are even longer than the 72-month whoppers that have grown in popularity over the last several years.

Meanwhile, those needing a vehicle intermittently will find that rental rates have not been declining as hoped. Despite analysts previously suggesting that auto pricing may stabilize through the fall, we now look to be going into the holidays facing familiar high-priced troubles — and there’s really no reason to think that’s going to change after 2022 gets here.  (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2021

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has officially announced that his company would be moving house this week. Currently nestled upon the bosom of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, CA, the automaker has expressed its intent to establish a new base of operations in Austin, TX. While this situation has been a long time coming, it’s not quite the prompt walkout that everyone was predicting 17 months ago.

At the start of the pandemic, Musk found himself at odds with local officials pushing strict COVID lockdowns. The CEO had wanted to keep the all-important Fremont facility up and running at the start of 2020, suggesting workers could simply choose to stay home without there being any negative repercussions (or pay). Told again to shut down, Tesla sued Alameda County on the grounds that its orders were unconstitutional and violated a return-to-work mandate recently issued by Governor Gavin Newson. Before long, Elon Musk was openly confessing he was fed up with the state of California and would be relocating the business(Read More…)

By on October 5, 2021

Despite manufacturers still managing to turn a profit, the automotive sector hasn’t been in the best of health these last few years. Growth appears to have plateaued in most Western nations, encouraging companies to cater this business toward other markets, supply chains have also been negatively impacted by the pandemic — with semiconductor shortages hindering production schedules on a scale we’ve not seen since the Great Recession.

It’s a bad situation and rumored to get worse if the warning cries of economists are to be believed. But there’s also mounting evidence to support their claims. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recently reported that vehicle registrations in the United Kingdom fell by roughly 35 percent in September vs the same timeframe in 2020. This is relevant because the month typically represents the second-busiest period for the country and numbers were already low due to production stops created by coronavirus lockdowns.  (Read More…)

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